“The idea of The Human Comedy . . . originated in a comparison between Humanity and Animality.”
A painter’s greatest masterpiece is inspired by a young girl of angelic beauty, but their resulting marriage only serves to reveal the deep divide between their true natures . . . A haughty young demoiselle, the last child to marry from an old noble family, is raised to be all too discerning in her choice of a future husband, with tragic consequences . . . A lifelong correspondence between two young women illustrates their different ideas about love and marriage―one valuing romance and excitement, the other marital duty―but as they begin to live out their philosophies of love and life, one thrives as a wife and mother while the other is slowly consumed by jealousy . . .
The works in this volume―At the Sign of The Cat & Racket, The Ball at Sceaux, and Letters of Two Brides―are preceded by an introduction in which the author sets forth the history of the project and explains his principles of composition
La Comédie Humaine, left unfinished at the time of Balzac’s death, is a vast literary work comprising nearly one hundred short stories, novellas, and novels set in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars during the Bourbon Restoration and the July Monarchy. Throughout, Balzac utilizes nineteenth-century French society to examine humanity and the human experience with all its attendant virtues, vices, and peculiarities.
Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was one of France’s most prolific and influential writers, and is generally considered to be one of the first and greatest of the literary realists. In his lifetime, he tried and failed at a number of professions, including that of legal clerk, printer, publisher, and as a businessman who engaged in a number of abortive ventures. These experiences, as well as numerous affairs with admiring ladies―many of them from the nobility―and an unsuccessful run for public office, provided him with a wealth of material for his writing, in which he was able to create some of the most memorable characters in French literature.